Food & Travel, Mind & Body

Stress-busting Food: The Healthy Guide to Hell Week

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#MUNIonThis: When stress comes in, we’re quick to resort to fatty, sinful comfort food. But what if we had options that are healthier for our mind and body?

From binge eating microwaveable pizza to guzzling down Red Bull like there’s no tomorrow, many unhealthy eating habits resurface when hell week sets in. However, just because you’re going through the wringer doesn’t mean your mind and body have to suffer for it. By making a few smart choices, a happier and healthier you will emerge at the end.

Instead of Red Bull, try avocados.

With double the potassium of bananas, avocados help manage stress by lowering blood pressure. Compared to other fruits, avocados have the most folate, which produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and boosts energy, mood and reward-driven learning. Avocados also replenish your body’s B vitamin levels; this goes a long way in preventing anxiety, irritability and fatigue.

Citrus fruits

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

In stressful situations, citrus fruits are your must-have sidekicks. They are rich in vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. A German study found that people who took vitamin C supplements recovered faster from a stressful situation than those given placebos. The orange may be the star of the citrus fruit family but give the pomelo, cantaloupe and grapefruit a try too!


Ditch chips and cookies — munch on nuts instead.

Each nut has its own superpower — while almonds boost your immune system with vitamins B2 and E, walnuts improve your cognitive functions thanks to alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps prevent memory loss. Cashews boost the production of serotonin (a happiness hormone that calms the nerves and creates feelings of well being) and zinc (a mineral that regulates the brain’s response to stress).


Oysters – they’re more than just aphrodisiacs.

Oysters are naturally high in many essential vitamins and minerals, such as protein, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin C, and contain more than seven times the zinc per serving of any other food. As a neurotransmitter, zinc has a calming effect and helps produce dopamine. (However, be careful: too much zinc can lead to nausea, diarrhea and headaches, so eat oysters in moderation!)

Sweet potato

Stress-eat your feelings away with sweet potatoes!

Surprisingly, eating sweet potatoes offsets the cravings you get for carbs and sweets when you’re under a lot of pressure. Moreover, its high carbohydrate content boosts serotonin production. Sweet potatoes also treat stress-related symptoms by replenishing it with important minerals that are depleted due to stress, like manganese, potassium, copper and iron.


Unwind with a nice, warm cup of tea.

The caffeine in coffee may help you stay up late but it will also heighten your nervousness, mood swings and stress levels. While black and green teas also have caffeine, they will help you relax. In London, researchers found that people who drank black tea de-stressed more quickly than those given a fake tea substitute. Meanwhile, a University of Pennsylvania study proved that chamomile, a natural sedative, significantly decreases anxiety symptoms.


Garlic: Enhancing productivity since the ancient Egyptian

While modern science has yet to definitively link garlic with the building of the pyramids, there is no denying that it is packed with powerful antioxidants that boost the immune system and protect body cells and tissues from stress-related damage. Thanks to its capacity to increase energy levels, improve physical stamina and reduce symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and insomnia, you’ll be able to conquer your workload in no time.

Dark chocolate

This hell week, make (dark) chocolate your guilt-free indulgence!

Chocolate is the earth’s most potent endorphin-producing food; because endorphins block pain and create feelings of pleasure, regular chocolate eaters actually have lower cortisol levels. Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and improves cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the heart and the brain. While it promotes a sense of calm through its release of serotonin, it can also provide a much-needed energy boost due to its caffeine content. Aside from being a rich source of iron, magnesium, copper, potassium and zinc, dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than fruit.

Whether its dealing with exams, a stressful work week, or you’re just having a rough day, making the unhealthy choice may seem like the easiest and most satisfying choice. But by seeking healthy alternatives and seeing food as medicine, just a quick snack can give you energy, calm you down, or take you back to that blissful mindset.

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